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Seven-Eleven to set up veggie factory for salads and sandwiches

LED-equipped indoor farm to produce lettuce for Tokyo-area stores

Seven-Eleven Japan plans to sell salads made with lettuce grown at the new facility in Tokyo-area stores. (Photo by Takuya Imai)

TOKYO -- Seven-Eleven Japan will turn to an indoor farm to grow vegetables for salads and sandwiches sold at its convenience stores, aiming to reduce weather-related supply risks.

The roughly 6 billion yen ($53.3 million) plant factory will be built on a Sagamihara site in Kanagawa Prefecture run by Prima Meat Packers subsidiary Prime Delica, which makes such items as boxed meals for 7-Eleven stores. Featuring a light-emitting-diode lighting system, the facility will be able to churn out enough lettuce for 70,000 salads per day. 

The facility is slated to begin operating in January. Seven-Eleven will use the vegetables in products for sale in stores in Tokyo and neighboring Kanagawa Prefecture. It will consider growing spinach and other vegetables as well.

This foray into indoor farming by the country's largest convenience store operator could encourage the model to spread. Seven-Eleven, a unit of Seven & i Holdings, plans to build more indoor farms alongside supplier production sites across Japan.

The company usually purchases vegetables from outside sources including farmers, but this arrangement leaves it at the mercy of the weather. Poor conditions can cause prices to surge to as much as double normal levels.

Growing food in indoor farms is somewhat more expensive, but ensures stability in terms of both price and quality. And after taking into account the lower amounts of waste involved, Seven-Eleven estimates plant factories will actually reduce average production costs.

Japan changed its tax system this month to provide the same tax breaks for plant factories built on former farms as for actual farmland, hoping to encourage productive use of idle land.

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